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Tragedy in Colorado

Tapes Show Bloody Rampage, Sheriff Says

Inquiry: Video depicts gunmen beginning attack by hurling pipe bombs and opening fire, he contends. Timeline of movements is also set forth.

April 28, 1999|JULIE CART | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LITTLETON, Colo. — Portions of the bloody rampage of two teenaged gunmen was captured on videotape by the Columbine High School's surveillance cameras, according to Jefferson County Sheriff John Stone.

Stone told Associated Press on Tuesday that the tapes, which had been sent to the FBI for analysis, revealed that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold began their attack in the school's cafeteria by hurling pipe bombs and then opening fire.

The two then raced upstairs to the library and, after spraying bullets at studying students, laid waste to the school's administrative offices.

"They shot the hell out of the administration office," Stone told AP. He said the "entire carnage" in the cafeteria was captured on the surveillance cameras.

Stone's remarks, as well as a timeline of the gunmen's movements that he set out, were curiously out of step with official statements made earlier in the day. Then, two sheriff's spokesmen were adamant that the tapes had not been viewed and no timeline had been established.

Reporters and others had been clamoring for an official timeline since Harris and Klebold stormed the school last Tuesday, killing 13 others before turning their guns on themselves.

According to the report of Stone's timeline, the two shooters ended up in the administration offices. They made three unsuccessful attempts to escape through three different exits but were driven back when deputies fired on them. Harris and Klebold killed themselves when they realized they were cornered, Stone said.

That, too, contradicts a scenario the sheriff's department has maintained. Officials say it is likely that Harris and Klebold did their killing and killed themselves in the first 15 to 20 minutes of the tragedy. Other than shots they aimed at deputies first arriving on the scene, officials said, there was no exchange of gunfire with the teens.

Also on Tuesday, a sheriff's department spokesman again emphasized that shots heard an hour or more after the incident began were made by SWAT teams entering the school buildings and laying down covering fire.

Stone was also quoted as saying that three young men detained and questioned the day of the shooting were still under suspicion as co-conspirators and may have helped plan or carry out the attack.

Stone noted that the teens, who have not been named as suspects, were intercepted near the school soon after the shooting broke out. They were wearing fatigue clothing and dark coats. The young men told authorities they had heard of the attack on the radio and came to the school out of curiosity.

"They said they heard it on the radio," Stone said. "Well, it wasn't on the radio at that time."

Jim Parr, a sheriff's department spokesman, appeared to contradict his boss and told media outlets late Tuesday night that the three men were not under suspicion.

Tuesday was another numbing day of funerals and grieving here. Church bells tolled 15 times at 11:21 a.m., exactly one week after Columbine's lunch period was disrupted by gunfire and explosions. Radio and television stations throughout Colorado observed a minute's silence.

Meanwhile, at the crippled school, bomb experts and laboratory technicians continued to comb through the debris, and authorities began work on what they said were "377 good leads" in the case.

Other developments on Tuesday:

* A Jefferson County sheriff's spokesman said that more than 50 explosive devices had been found in the school and the suspect's cars and residences.

* The coroner has concluded that Harris and Klebold took their own lives, putting to rest a murder-suicide theory.

* The weapons used in the attack are still being traced, and at least two came from Klebold's girlfriend.

*Authorities are questioning a worker at a local hardware store where Harris and Klebold allegedly bought propane gas tanks, wire, nails and had two keys copied.

Authorities also discounted what had been a promising report that Harris was spotted attempting to buy guns in Colorado Springs last month. Mel Bernstein, co-owner with his wife of Dragon Arms, told authorities that five teenagers came into his store last month and tried to buy an M-60 machine gun and a silencer-equipped assault pistol.

Bernstein said the teens--four boys and a girl--were distinctively dressed in black trench coats and some of the boys wore "punk rock makeup." Bernstein said he did not sell weapons to the group.

He said that after the shootings last week he recognized Harris, whom he remembered as having done all the talking while in his store. Bernstein gave his store surveillance videotape to police.

Investigators now say that the tape does not appear to show either of the suspects.

"They were not able to recognize any of our suspects on the tape," Parr said. "It does not mean that they weren't in the gun store at the time."

Harris, 18, and Klebold, 17, did assemble an arsenal of weapons to use in the attack on the school. In addition to the explosives they unleashed, the two used two sawed-off shotguns, a 9-millimeter carbine assault rifle and a TEC-DC9 semiautomatic pistol.

Investigators believe that Robyn K. Anderson, whom Klebold escorted to Columbine's prom a little over a week ago, purchased the two shotguns used in the shooting. Anderson, who turned 18 last November, is considered a witness and not a suspect, officials said.

Under Colorado law, it is legal for an 18-year-old to purchase a long gun--a shotgun or a rifle.

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